Charvel Pro Mod Limited Wild Card review

Limited-edition version of the ultimate hot-rod rock machine

  • £821.33
  • $1329.99
A new Wild Card model will go on sale at the start of each quarter.

MusicRadar Verdict

This is certainly something of a departure for Charvel, and is appealing in its own right, but we hope the next will be a graphic-clad eye-popper!


  • +

    Lovely neck. Authentic custom vibe. Versatile performance.


  • -

    We had to wait a few months for the next version...

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We fell head-over-heels in love with the Charvel USA production models released in 2008 and waited with barely hidden excitement for the new batches of custom finishes that were introduced every quarter.

As much as we'll always have a soft spot for a flat black San Dimas Style 1, our favourite had to be the Trans Red Ale So-Cal from the seventh batch. But all good things come to an end… or at least they change direction slightly.

"As ever, the neck is gorgeous, and the edges of the rosewood 'board are 'rolled' between the 22 jumbo frets in a manner akin to James Tyler's guitars."

Charvel has refined this popular concept; the T-style San Dimas Style 2 has been retired, with the SD and So-Cal Style 1 remaining. These will be generally available in a choice of three standard finishes and specs under the Pro Mod banner.

The custom aspect will now be served by a number of Wild Card models that will be released at the start of each quarter and, perhaps of most nominal significance, each of these new models will be built in Japan, not the USA.

Charvel was right there at the beginning of custom shop guitar order concept, so it makes sense that this flashy- looking Wild Card instrument displays all the hallmarks of a suitably pimped double-cut.

"The ideas basically come from our customers," says Charvel's Mike McGregor. "People feed me ideas all the time, and my team and I simply watch for compelling requests and help them along.

"A new Wild Card will be available at the beginning of each quarter and I can tell you that while the next one will not be a huge departure from the current one, subsequent Wild Cards will feature significant differences."

The body is fashioned from a three-piece 'spread' of solid alder and topped with a veneer of quilted maple that's finished in a cool aquamarine dubbed Dead Calm Aqua; even the logo's hue has been altered to match.

Although the Custom Shop produces its fair share of guitars bearing highly figured tops, the instruments bearing graphics hand-painted by the likes of Craig Frasier, Mike Learn or Dan Lawrence are considered 'proper' Charvels.

But despite that omission, this model is a true beauty. As ever, the neck is gorgeous and the edges of the rosewood 'board are 'rolled' between the 22 jumbo frets in a manner akin to James Tyler's guitars.

"The slight scalloping is a by-product of the heavy roll I asked for on the necks and is done in sanding," McGregor tells us. "When we started developing the Pro Mod, we brought in the heavy roll as it's been gaining in popularity on Custom Shop orders."

The 'played-in' feel that this gives the neck is extremely welcoming and adds a level of feel and playability rarely seen at this price point.

A double-locking vibrato is a given with a modern Charvel guitar, and here a Floyd Rose FRT-O2000 unit is employed. The bridge is recessed, which isn't an especially common feature, but it does allow for an upward movement of three whole tones on the G string.

There's little doubt that the top-mounted Seymour Duncans loaded here - a JB SH-4 humbucker at the bridge and a pair of Classic Stack Plus STK-S4 single-coils - are likely to be of greater appeal to customers who don't necessarily place CC DeVille at the top of their own Greatest Players Ever list. Well, there's only one way to find out…


The stacked single-coils provide a nicely silent performance in terms of hum pickup and also give a quite traditional tone - the quality of the clean sounds from positions four (middle and neck) and five (neck) on the selector are well worth mentioning.

At the other end of the scale, the JB provides a suitable level of drive: the guitar sings with a full tone bristling with dynamics and musical harmonics.

The vibrato works well and, as we've said, moves smoothly upwards as well as down and, apart from the full-throated neck humbucker option, the guitar provides an impressive choice of modern and vintage-coloured sounds.

The £999 price of the previous USA production models scored well in our value category, but the reduced price of this guitar is more than welcome. It also includes a hefty SKB road case.

Any rock player will surely find their love for the genre reinvigorated with any and all of the Pro Mod guitars and, if the current Wild Card model doesn't appeal, there's not too long to wait before another version hits the streets.

Simon Bradley is a guitar and especially rock guitar expert who worked for Guitarist magazine and has in the past contributed to world-leading music and guitar titles like MusicRadar (obviously), Guitarist, Guitar World and Louder. What he doesn't know about Brian May's playing and, especially, the Red Special, isn't worth knowing.